There are several rivers and waterways running through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and together they are known as the Bow Back Rivers. They originate with the River Lea, which starts in Hertfordshire and flows south, joining the Thames at Bow Creek about two miles south of here.
A large river flowing through marshy land often makes several channels for itself. But the shape of the Bow Back Rivers has been changed over time as people dug out new sections to channel the water for different purposes.
The names of the rivers give clues to these purpose; Waterworks River was a major source of London's drinking water; City Mill and Pudding Mill rivers powered waterwheels to grind corn; the Lee Navigation was created as a route for boats travelling from place to place.
Until recently, the tidewaters of the Thames made some sections of the Bow Back Rivers look very different. Twice a day the river level would rise, making it hard to get boats under the bridges and even flooding low-lying ground. And twice a day the river level would drop, leaving wide muddy areas on either side, and the occasional stranded boat waiting for the next tide.
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